Preschool Special Needs Page

Typical or Special Needs?

Our preschoolers represent a varied range of growth and development. What if you suspect that there more than an individual growth and development progression going on with a particular child?

As early childhood educators, we know that each child develops at their own pace. We also know that we can expect to see specific stages of growth and developmental progress within an approximate six to eight month window.

We are not special needs experts. We are, or should be, experts on the typical growth and developmental stages of the ages of children in our care.

Our experience and training will many times raise a red flag about a child and a specific area of development. What should we do then?

We first need to remember what it IS that we are trained, and therefore qualified to do and what we are NOT trained and qualified to do.

If we are trained and degreed in Speech Therapy for example, then we are qualifed to assess a child and sit with the parents and discuss our findings.

If we are not degreed in this area, what we tell parents must be limited to our training. We must NOT give a parent our guess of a diagnosis.

And, if we are not specially tranined in an area and we give a diagnosis, we truly are guessing.

I know that sounds harsh, however, too many early childhood educators confuse experience and basic training with being a specialist.

I took Special Needs 101 and Introduction to Speech and Language Pathology as part of my degree program. However neither of those classes make me an expert or specialist in either area. What I am a specialist in is early childhood growth and development.

Most of our training has fully qualified us to know what is within developmental norms for the children we care for and what is not within the norm.

What our training qualifies us to do is to observe and document and then present families with our concerns if a child appears to not be within the typical range of development in a specific area.

What our training does NOT qualify us for is to make a suggestion to a parent of WHAT or WHY we think their child is not within the developmental norm. That is called diagnosing, and that is the job of those specifically trained in those areas.

Our role in the area of special needs is to recommend or refer a parent to the appropriate specialist.

The lines to be drawn in our profession can become blurred for us because so much experience with so many children (or with issues with our own children) seem to make it clear to us that this child has _______(fill in the blank with a diagnosis...ADD, Sensory Disorder, Speech Disorder)...and may be right but for all you know, you may be wrong... (Lyrics from an old 80's song ringing in your head?!!)

Developmental disorders and developmental delays can affect different areas of development. A child with an apparant gross motor issue may actually have a vision problem.

A child with an apparant speech issue may have a hearing problem.

A child who we may see as "overly shy" may have a sensory problem.

The thing is...we don't really know. I encourage all of us to remember that our role is very clear and very important.

Parents and yes, even specialist, count on us to know what we are trained to know: typical growth and development for the ages we care for.

They count on us to speak with parents and offer a referal to a specialist when we see that a child is not within that typical range.

Finally, and most importantly, they count on and expect us to NOT take it upon ourselves to "diagnose" children.

This section is dedicated to addressing basics of growth and development issues and concerns and what we, as teachers, should and should not do in each case!

Special Needs Pages


Speech and Language Concerns

Coming Soon



Go to HOME PAGE of Preschool Plan-It from this Special Needs Page

Is there a Special Need issue you'd like to see covered soon?

Let me know! Use the Contact Me link to the left to send your suggestion. Be sure to list somewhere in the box that your submission is for the Special Needs Section!